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Why Your SNES Turned Yellow

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the stupid-yellow-orb dept.

Classic Games (Games) 87

If, back in the day, you ever wondered why your old Super Nintendo tended to discolor, your curiosity will now be sated. Via Ars Technica's Opposable Thumbs blog, an article on the Vintage Computing and Gaming site which explains the mysteries of plastic discoloration. From the article: "Since ... different batches of plastics had ... different aging results ... then there must have been a difference of additives between them. Perhaps in one of the production runs of plastic, they didn't get the catalyst or flame retardant mixture quite right and more residues were left over in the top half's plastic batch, thus causing it to degrade more rapidly over time. And by the time Nintendo produced the later runs of Super Nintendos, they had perfected the manufacturing process of their plastic, meaning that those later models aren't as susceptible to oxidation as the earlier models are."

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Great... (5, Funny)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644000)

Now if someone can explain why my Megadrive turned yellow?!

REPOST!! Digg! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17644400)

This article is lame enough to begin with. Now some idiot slashdotter tries to get fame for submitting it, and a total moron admin (kdawson is the worst) actually posts it.
 
Another "As seen on Digg 10 days ago" post.

Re:Great... (1)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 7 years ago | (#17647028)

Now if someone can explain why my Megadrive turned yellow?!

Your younger brother peed on it, because you never let him play.

Besides, how does black plastic fade to yellow? I'd think it would turn something more akin to purple.

Re:Great... (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#17648648)

Besides, how does black plastic fade to yellow? I'd think it would turn something more akin to purple.

Why would you think that?

The yellowing method varies between materials, but in plastics, it generally has to do with extra bonds forming between the carbons. PVC, for example, is prone to photoyellowing due to dehydrochlorination -- basically, UV splits off an HCl, thus causing the carbons to crosslink. In fact, a number of plastics are prone to UV photoyellowing -- I wonder if where you kept your SNES helped determine how yellow it got...

Re:Great... (1)

Drooling Iguana (61479) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652092)

Besides, how does black plastic fade to yellow? I'd think it would turn something more akin to purple.
Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird, it's a plane, it's the joke!

Jealousy (1)

WarwickRyan (780794) | more than 7 years ago | (#17647620)

He really liked admired Mario?

Wii Too (1)

LRayZor (872596) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644020)

Same thing happened to the analogue controller on the top of the nunchuk. After about two hours playing Zelda, I noticed that it had turned bright yellow.

Re:Wii Too (5, Funny)

the unbeliever (201915) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644036)

If I've said it once, I've said it 1000 times, wash your hands after eating cheetos.

Re:Wii Too (1)

n2art2 (945661) | more than 7 years ago | (#17649896)

And after taking a potty break too!

Re:Wii Too (1)

Macthorpe (960048) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644038)

I can explain that.

Just because it's called a Wii, doesn't mean you should Wii on it.

Re:Wii Too (1)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17647178)

Remind me never to shake your hand.

Re:Wii Too (1)

entmike (469980) | more than 7 years ago | (#17648064)

My nerd-radar says those are Cheetos stains.

Re:Wii Too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17700122)

Those aren't cheetos stains...it's actually a stain from the oils on your hand. The plastic used on, and I'm assuming some...not all, nunchucks are prone to it.

huh.... (4, Interesting)

Criliric (879949) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644022)

I guess that explains why my old monitors turned that ugly yellow... thanks.

Re:huh.... (4, Funny)

scsirob (246572) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644628)

No, that's due to excessive smoking (from you, not the monitor)

Re:huh.... (1)

a4r6 (978521) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644780)

We have a bunch of CRT monitors that are much more yellow than others, but in a pattern that suggests its from a cleaning agent someone used. (All the ones in one room, only on the visible easily accessible portions) My best guess is the plastic doesnt like ammonia-based stuff like windex.

Re:huh.... (1)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 7 years ago | (#17645380)

I guess that explains why my old monitors turned that ugly yellow... thanks.

Quite likely. But I bet most monitors (not saying yours here) are discolored by smokers.

Re:huh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17657208)

Yup. It's a great article that explains *lots*, which about 2/3 of the comments below didn't read. Nor did the mods who gave the twits +4's.

Author Benj Edwards did skip one interesting item in his Possible Solutions though: Dye.

You don't paint computer gear -- that looks awful because the thickness of the paint fills in the texture. So the computer mod crowd uses plastic dyes developed for car interiors. You can buy little spray tins at Home Depot type places.

Check it out on Google. I won't link to any one article because you really should read 3 or more -- the process is messy, very smelly, and there are variables you need to watch out for.

Darn shame Edwards didn't look into dye, because nobody has yet has discussed what it may do to the plastics structurally in the detail he covers here.

Amigas (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17644070)

They did this too. -Fortunately- I painted mine and now it looks worse than it would have done should it have turned yellow :)

YUCK! (4, Funny)

Tomfrh (719891) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644078)

EWW!

It's turned all boxy and the buttons have turned purple too!

Obligatory Russian reversal (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17644090)

In Soviet Russia, plastic urinates on you!

Re:Obligatory Russian reversal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17644186)

obviously not only in Soviet Russia...

Re:Obligatory Russian reversal (0, Troll)

goodcow (654816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17646768)

I think you misspelled Germany.

Re:Obligatory Russian reversal (1)

kidcharles (908072) | more than 7 years ago | (#17650682)

Your grammar was too correct, the proper phrasing is:

In Soviet Russia, plastic urinate on you!

Re:Obligatory Russian reversal (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653118)

Your grammar was too correct, the proper phrasing is:

In Soviet Russia, plastic urinate on you!
As I understand it, the "bad grammar" of a Russian reversal is based on removing articles (a(n), the). Russian has inflections but not articles.

Strange (1)

Rixel (131146) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644136)

My skin is turning yellow.....

Odd thing is that I stopped playing Nintendo around the time I turned 19.

Re:Strange (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17646092)

Just because you havent played for a couple days doesnt mean you have "quit"

Re:Strange (1)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652698)

That's liver problems.. or Kidney.. I forget which, either way you need to get tested

Re:Strange (1)

Rixel (131146) | more than 7 years ago | (#17657800)

It was a joke...apparently, not a very successful one :)

19 is the minimum age that one can start drinking in the area where I grew up, and may one day end up with jaundice.

I should have state "reached age of majority"

I am guilty of local bias. :(

Re:Strange (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17653810)

My skin is turning yellow.....
...and that was the day my parents told me I was Asian.

well (2, Insightful)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644152)

Well my SNES is still gray. You would think this would be more prevalent. Ive got a lot of old plastic stuff, some faded, but none change colors.

Re:well (1)

terrisus (108956) | more than 7 years ago | (#17648376)

Yeah, my SNES that I got in 1991 is still its normal color (or fairly close to it anyway. Just the normal dirt or whatnot that one would expect).
Not that one example disproves the "Earlier ones turned yellow, later ones didn't" idea in the summary, but, for whatever it's worth, mine didn't anyway.

Re:well (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#17649724)

My SNES is still grey, even though I'm pretty sure it's an early version. The thing that boggles me is, who are these people that are both playing lots of video games and being exposed to sunlight such that the plastic has a chance to fade? Mine never faded because it was either in the basement, or in the living room with the drapes pulled, like any real child-geek should be!

Re:well (1)

Emetophobe (878584) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653388)

I have a lot of old beige computer cases that are now yellowish, I always assumed they turned yellow from prolonged exposure to the Sun.

Discolouration (5, Interesting)

FirienFirien (857374) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644200)

You get the same with a huge number of materials; the problem is that the additives don't complement each other well: if you want flame retardant, you get something that oxidises with light more easily. If you want super-white white, then the damn thing melts if vaguely near a flame. I had to do some research on this about a year ago - it's even worse with fabrics. I think there may be more expensive materials that balance the two better - but then you add expense to the case. You can have superwhite and then top it off with a layer of something tough and clear, but then you need to bind the two materials and create extra manufacturing cost from having thinner slices and having to put them together. Or - like the current trend - you can pick a colour that's not such a pain in the ass.

Re:Discolouration (1)

joshetc (955226) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644278)

I've even seen some people use paint

Re:Discolouration (1)

Cinnamon Whirl (979637) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644618)

I guess the good thing about wireless controllers is that the console can be hermetically sealed in an inert atmosphere. Only thing left sticking out would be the power cable, and if those magnetic induction power packs recently featured can be added as well...... timeless Wii!

Re:Discolouration (1)

SheeEttin (899897) | more than 7 years ago | (#17646724)

What if you want to play a different game?

I mean, the new Zelda game is awesome and all, but still...

Re:Discolouration (1)

Wdomburg (141264) | more than 7 years ago | (#17647508)

That's what the virtual console is for. ;) Just make sure you put a *big* SD card in before sealing it.

Re:Discolouration (1)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 7 years ago | (#17658650)

Maybe that'd explain why the analogue stick on my Wii controller's turning blue after just three weeks...

Same thing happened to old Mac's (2, Informative)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644276)

If you have a "happy mac" (128/512/SE/Classic), the same thing happens to them, including the keyboard and mouse.

Re:Same thing happened to old Mac's (2, Insightful)

LoadWB (592248) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644700)

And my Amigas, and my Commodore 64Cs/128s and peripherals, and (which I wouldn't think since it's been in storage) my Atari 800XL, and...

Re:Same thing happened to old Mac's (1)

Deflatamouse! (132424) | more than 7 years ago | (#17646076)

My commodore 64 turned brown when I took it out of the box. They must have gotten the mixture really wrong and it oxidized right away after it came in contact with the air at home...

Re:Same thing happened to old Mac's (1)

LoadWB (592248) | more than 7 years ago | (#17646434)

Man, that must have been one of the REALLY original units, where they didn't get the plastic mix right at all. I got one of the later ones, nice beige-ish color.

hehehe Seriously, though, I have had a number of my brown 64 units turn various colors as well. Some darker, some lighter (I actually like the milk-chocolate color, really light brown,) and one turned like an ashy-greyish color. Weird stuff, this plastic.

It really does suck when you have a 128D with a metal case... the paint on the case does not yellow, but the plastic does, and now it looks just icky. I think my favorite has to be my 1571 with almost perfect color, except for this nicotine-yellow drive latch.

Re:Same thing happened to old Mac's (1)

mgabrys_sf (951552) | more than 7 years ago | (#17645614)

Yes, my mac-plus (platinum gray) turned yellow except for the base which was flat against a foam block in the case it was in. Now it looks like a first-gen mac-plus. Mouse turned too. I have an old imagewriter printer though - it's still white.

Re:Same thing happened to old Mac's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17659512)

Or a white Macbook from the first production run. The palm rests turn yellow; Apple has a repair program to address that specific issue.

It's all natural (2, Funny)

streptocopter (1052066) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644440)

The SNES turning yellow was a huge technological leap for Nintendo.
My old NES just decomposed - I kept it in the attic for a couple of years, but the day i went up there to get it, there was nothing nothing left but a pile of dirt. The only thing unaffected by the decay was the golden finish on my Zelda 2 cartridge.

I'm told that the wii has nuclear decay, now that's progress.

Umm.... smoking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17644462)

Cigarette smoke turns more things yellow than just your lungs.

Not smoking? (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644566)

Read the article. It's not cigarette smoke; no-one in my family smoked, and my computer actually yellowed more after it was packed away. Similarly, the floppy disk drive which appeared identical and was exposed to near-identical conditions hasn't yellowed.

Re:Not smoking? (1)

swehack (975617) | more than 7 years ago | (#17645326)

I only said smoking because anyone who has ever seen the walls and ceiling of an apartment where a heavy smoker has lived for a longer period of time should know what smoke does to white or bright surfaces over long periods of time.

Infra red reveals the truth... (3, Interesting)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644538)

I noticed a while back that (amongst other things) my Atari 800XL [smithore.com] (not my photo) had yellowed badly, but that the 1050 disk drive [zock.com] (again, not mine), which was part of the same bundle and appeared to use the same beige plastic still looked "as new". I doubt varying exposure to daylight could account for all of this.

Interestingly, my year-old keyboard has a white plastic case and keys. However, plastics that appear identical [imageshack.us] to the naked eye, aren't always so similar when viewed with IR [imageshack.us] .

Also on my laptop (sort of) (1)

n1hilist (997601) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644558)

My Acer Travelmate is starting to fade where my wrists lean on the space infront of the keyboard. You'd figure they'd think about these things.

Re:Also on my laptop (sort of) (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644594)

Can't say without seeing it, but are you sure it's fading, or is it just tiny particles of loose skin and grease embedded where you're resting your wrists? The same thing happened to my wrist-rest... (eww..)

Re:Also on my laptop (sort of) (1)

n1hilist (997601) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644872)

It appears the coating (electroplating?) is fading. My fiance was given an old temporary Acer TM and some parts that used to be the grey finish were a sort of faint green/lime colour.. so go figure. My next notebook is most likely going to be an IBM anyway.

Re:Also on my laptop (sort of) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17645034)

"My next notebook is most likely going to be an IBM anyway."
Doubtful since they sold off their notebook line to Lenovo. Unless your next one is going to be an outdated and used model, it's not going to say IBM on it.

Re:Also on my laptop (sort of) (1)

Masami Eiri (617825) | more than 7 years ago | (#17647592)

Unless something has changed, Lenovo's laptops still say IBM. Got a T43 this summer, and I worked at a place that was almost entirely IBM/Lenovo and they all said IBM in addition to Lenovo.

Re:Also on my laptop (sort of) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17655430)

It is being phased out.

Furthermore, the laptops are Lenovo's. Just because they still say IBM on them, doesn't mean they are. The company that is responsible for the laptops is Lenovo now. You cannot buy a laptop from IBM.

Re:Also on my laptop (sort of) (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 7 years ago | (#17645070)

IBMs do it too. I had an A22m before my current Inspiron E1505, and by the time I got rid of it the texturing on the plastic of the hand grooves had worn smooth. (Shiny, too.) Same thing's happening with the shoddy silver plastic on my E1505.

Re:Also on my laptop (sort of) (1)

n1hilist (997601) | more than 7 years ago | (#17646154)

Was that a black notebook? (The IBM) .. did it just go shiney or wear through to a white ugly plastic? I'd rather go from rough plastic finish to smooth black than grey to lime vomit plastic, anyday!

Re:Also on my laptop (sort of) (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 7 years ago | (#17646344)

IBMs just go shiny, the plastic is actually black through and through. Some of the surfaces on some IBMs are made of metal and painted black, like the underneath, in which case you see the metal if you scratch the paint off.
A lot of cheaper laptops (experience with fujitsu and dell) which are silver coloured, are just painted silver and have very ugly white plastic underneath... They look awfull when you wear through the paint.

Re:Also on my laptop (sort of) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17644612)

There's got to be a TravelMate [travelmateinfo.com] / Wii joke in there somewhere .....

They do think of it (1)

Wooky_linuxer (685371) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644730)

1.Things turn yellow

2.Users get annoyed

3.??

4. Profit!!!

Seriously though, things turning yellow leads to higher replacement rate I believe. Coupled with lower manufacturing costs...

Good thing... (1)

Chaffar (670874) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644602)

... I bought myself a Super Famicom with a converter instead.

Re:Good thing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17645452)

I dunno - they seem to appreciate these things in Japan too - a Famicon (modded with vga outputs) fully white would set me back 4000 yen. The yellow ones as little as 900 yen. I got a mostly-white one.

the same happened to cartidges (1)

seti (74097) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644606)

The same thing happened to SNES cartidges. They were made out of two pieces of plastic that clipped together. Many of my older cartidges have one yellow half and one half that still looks normal, propbably because they were made out of two different batches of the plastic.

Re:the same happened to cartidges (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17649164)

There's a picture of SNES cartridges, just like you mentioned, on that article.

Important tip (4, Funny)

Half a dent (952274) | more than 7 years ago | (#17644792)

Don't eat yellow SNES.

Iguana 2000 (1)

lordmoose (696738) | more than 7 years ago | (#17645116)

I never got to see my SNES turn yellow because I painted it red and black (controllers also) and drew a crude iguana on it. I had to do it because there were a lot of Nintendos getting stolen back then. I had to make mine stand out.

SNES (1)

swehack (975617) | more than 7 years ago | (#17645286)

My snes turned a yellowish huge to though, i think that was because of heavy smoking because it smells as if one of those plastic additives was tobacco.

Re:SNES (4, Funny)

collectivescott (885118) | more than 7 years ago | (#17649590)

"My snes turned a yellowish huge"

Wait, it change color and got bigger too? I don't think that's tobacco you're smoking...

Re:SNES (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17659684)

Yeah, but only my Windows machine has become a vicious worm ridden zombie harassing people to buy drugs and pumping stock tips. I'm just hallucinating, right?

Late models not susceptible? Um... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17647284)

"And by the time Nintendo produced the later runs of Super Nintendos, they had perfected the manufacturing process of their plastic, meaning that those later models aren't as susceptible to oxidation as the earlier models are."

That's odd. Of the 2 SNES consoles I own, the early one (purchased near original system launch, still has the cart locking mechanism via power switch) is the original color. The other I have was purchased years later, and was manufactured years later (lacks cart lock mechanism) - it has yellowed quite a bit, although not as severe as shown in the pics.

That's interesting... (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 7 years ago | (#17647626)

I didn't know it was caused by the plastic degrading. I thought it was because my mother-in-law smoked like a chimney. So why did the wallpaper turn yellow too?

Shatner? (1)

EnsilZah (575600) | more than 7 years ago | (#17647914)

Since ... different batches of plastics had ... different aging results ... then there must have been a difference of additives between them.
Since when does Shatner do reports on old hardware?

Re:Shatner? (1)

MLease (652529) | more than 7 years ago | (#17651648)

He'll do anything for a buck these days. Show me the MONEY!

-Mike

Dreamcast! (1)

ChibiOne (716763) | more than 7 years ago | (#17648136)

My Sega Dreamcast turned yellow too. It caught a bit of sun light daily, and it happened slowly.

Don't need sunlight... or smoke... (1)

6Yankee (597075) | more than 7 years ago | (#17648590)

The article mentions sunlight as a culprit.

While I stayed in smaller accommodation for a year and a bit, I did the sensible thing and packed all my model planes away in their original packaging - clear plastic tray with a clear plastic lid, inside a thick cardboard box, in a cupboard that no sunlight was getting into. When I came to unpack them, I discovered that the tails of two planes had yellowed - as had the clear plastic in their boxes. Definitely not sunlight in that case; you'd think the manufacturer would've been a bit more careful about their choice of plastic.

Re:Don't need sunlight... or smoke... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17649702)

The article clearly mentions that sunlight is only one possible cause for a certain type of plastic with certain additives.

Simple exposure to oxygen or heat can cause yellowing too over time. And in your case, it's possible that the clear plastic packaging degraded and outgassed nasty chemicals that could have accelerated the aging of your plane.

MS Intellimouse Explorer (1)

British (51765) | more than 7 years ago | (#17649944)

I have a mouse at work I brought from home, and about 60% of the silver paint has worn off. It worn off right where my palm & fingers touch it. There's a small spot underneath the big button where my thumb touches, totally dull gray.

ZSNES? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17650830)

Does this mean I have to turn my ZSNES yellow too, to be compatible?

my snes photo (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17651864)

PHOTO HERE [chrisdlugosz.net]

One mystery down, three to go. (1)

Aptgetupdate (1051164) | more than 7 years ago | (#17651904)

Now if someone could just explain why Rush concert tshirts always shrink.

Re:One mystery down, three to go. (1)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 7 years ago | (#17659722)

It's not the shirt that's shrinking...

Keyboards and Mice (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652794)

Nothing ages as badly as keyboards and mice. Not only do they get that yellow aging funk described in the article but they also have your bacteria, skin oil, worn keys, coffee spills, crumbs, etc. After 5 years they start to resemble archeological artifacts. Get an old keyboard that was used by a guy with a beard and you'll really cringe.

This article doesn't explain why snow turns yellow though.

Re:Keyboards and Mice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17656276)

This article doesn't explain why snow turns yellow though.


Because you touch yourself at night.

Silly Stuff... (2, Funny)

triso (67491) | more than 7 years ago | (#17654480)

This is a silly, silly, little article. What's next? Why last years' newspaper turned yellow, Why my bananas turned black or Why the copper roof turned green.

The better question (1)

DesertBlade (741219) | more than 7 years ago | (#17656380)

Is why you had to blow on the carts to get them to read.
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